PLAN B by Michael Healey, directed by Richard Greenblatt, with John Dolan, Peter Donaldson, Marie-Hélène Fontaine and Peter MacNeill. Presented by the Shaw Festival and the Tarragon at the Tarragon Mainspace (30 Bridgman). Runs to February 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 2:30 pm. $24-$30, Sunday pwyc-$15, stu/srs discounts. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
if an intimate relationship lacks trust and is crippled by fear, there's no way it's gonna hold together. That's true whether those involved are two people or two political entities, as Michael Healey demonstrates in his clever, thoughtful but ambitiously overstuffed Plan B.Set in a Hull hotel -- an imposing perspective design by Glen Charles Landry, topped by Sonya Malaborza's surtitle translations -- the script brings together a quartet negotiating the separation of Quebec from Canada.
Michael, the likeable federal finance minister (Peter Donaldson) and Colin, a sarcastic western senator (Peter MacNeill), are on one side of the table; Quebec's prime minister Mathieu (John Dolan) and Lise, his intergovernmental affairs minister (Marie-Hlène Fontaine), sit opposite them.
At first it's a highly orchestrated affair, from the one-upmanship games to the intentional leaks to the press. But when Michael and Lise enter into a sexual flirtation and a third political force intrudes on the meetings, Michael becomes a rogue negotiator, tossing out prepared scenarios to secure the amity of both Lise and, through Mathieu, Quebec.
Playing out parallels between the sexual and the political, Healey sets up an engaging dual structure for the ongoing conflict, even if the more serious second act sometimes goes off on unnecessary tangents and director Richard Greenblatt fails to focus the action and arguments.
Surprisingly, after toying with our minds for most of the piece, Healey engages our emotions near its end.
Donaldson is all charm and warmth with both allies and opponents, Dolan's often befuddled Mathieu is as comic as he is sincere (the two have a great scene sitting around in their underwear and ties, trying to bond as they watch daytime TV), while Fontaine makes Lise a powerhouse behind-the-scenes politico surprised at finding herself seduced.